If Scotland does part with Britain after the UK leaves the EU, Edinburgh may, “by necessity,” seek membership in a free trade zone with the bloc before applying for a full membership, Scotland’s first minister has said.
Nicola Sturgeon had called for a new referendum on Scotland’s independence in light of Brexit, arguing that the majority of people there voted to stay in the EU. Now she has acknowledged that becoming a union member after breaking up with London may not be an immediate goal for an independent Scotland.
Speaking in an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday, the minister said, depending on the Brexit terms, Scotland may instead seek to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) before applying for full EU membership.
“It may be by necessity, but we don’t want that. We have to set that out at the time, because there are still some uncertainties, many uncertainties, around the Brexit process,” she said.
EFTA is a four-member free trade organization that includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, which runs in parallel to the EU. Over the course of the organization’s existence, six nations, including the UK, have left EFTA to join either the European Union or its precursor, the European Economic Community (EEC). EFTA members participate in the EU’s single market, which is one of Scotland’s main goals, Sturgeon stressed.